Flip charts flatter, moderation cards are written and there is a concentrated business-like atmosphere in the Europasaal at the Federal Foreign Office. Shortly before the end of Germany’s Chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), 30 young people from the OSCE area are poring over texts and addressing issues. They are discussing international security issues and participation options for young people in security policy and drawing up teaching material on OSCE issues.
Fostering the exchange among young people
“Right now, when political alienation has increased so much in the OSCE area, civil society connections have become all the more important”, Foreign Minister Steinmeier has said with regard to one of the focuses of Germany’s Chairmanship. “It is therefore all the more important that during our Chairmanship we foster the exchange and dialogue among young people from the entire OSCE region, lend them a stronger voice and give them an opportunity to contribute their perspective of the pressing security issues of our time.”
That is exactly what the young people, some of whom have taken part in previous youth fora and discussion events, intend to do. They are now contributing the conclusions made at prior events to the present conference. The two highlights of the programme, an exchange in the German Bundestag with those deputies who are also members of the German delegation to the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and a closing discussion with Antje Leendertse, the Deputy Special Representative of the Federal Government for the OSCE Chairmanship and Head of the Task Force for the OSCE Chairmanship in 2016, serve this aim of allowing the ideas and suggestions of the young generation on security issues be heard in the political arena.
Sharing knowledge with many young people
At the same time, however, the young men and women want to communicate their commitment and enthusiasm and to interest others in international security issues. That is why they are drawing up teaching material during the conference which could be used in senior school classes in all OSCE participating States to increase knowledge about the security architecture in the OSCE area and to encourage pupils to engage with international security policy issues. Many of the conference participants themselves are part of a network of young volunteers led by the Schwarzkopf Foundation Young Europe. As multipliers, they teach and shape such modules in their own countries.
Networking among young people is a key value-added
Exchanges and networking among young people is also a key element at this event. For Bahar Lian Ünar from Turkey, the youngest participant in the conference, it goes without saying that “Networking across borders and cooperation among young people at international level is essential if the upcoming generation is to have a stronger voice in security issues and beyond.”
The motto of the German Chairmanship of the OSCE in 2016 is “Renewing dialogue, rebuilding trust, restoring security”. In order to include young people in the security policy discussion, Germany appointed three Special Representatives on Youth and Security and in the course of the year has held two major youth fora in Vienna and Belgrade, nine discussion events in various cities around Germany (both in collaboration with the Schwarzkopf Foundation Young Europe) and two meetings of young decisionmakers from OSCE states (with the ZEIT-Stiftung Ebelin und Gerd Bucerius).